LAPORTE, Ind. — Northwest Health filed a lawsuit against the whistleblower who uncovered mass HIPAA violations committed at the old LaPorte Hospital in Downtown LaPorte. In a 10 page filing full of false and frivolous allegations, the hospital system claims Roy Morgan illegally “accessed, removed, and published confidential patient records.” When, in fact, Morgan was a 3rd party contractor who was given a master key to enter the building by the demolition company to help remove and sell equipment that was left on the site by Northwest Health when the building was vacated.
REAL News Michiana first reported on the mass HIPAA violations in an article on March 15th after Morgan provided photos and videos showing thousands of patient files simply abandoned at the old hospital. The files contain social security numbers, birth dates, healthcare information, even pictures of surgeries and naked bodies. In response to our investigation and inquiries into the HIPAA violations, Northwest Health requested RNM destroy the evidence we obtained.
In one utility room located in the facility, hundreds of files are simply scattered across the floor in what appears to be an area that has already been ransacked. According to sources, there have been several incidents of trespassing and vandalism at the site.
In other rooms located in the old building, there are shred bins that are still full of sensitive information. Sources, who wish not to be named out of fear of retaliation, even tell RNM bins of body parts were discovered in the Emergency Room area with patient information also attached. RNM is publishing some of those photos with sensitive information redacted. However, out of an abundance of caution, RNM is not sharing video from taken inside of the building.
The whistleblower, Morgan, only reached out to RNM with the photos and video after he had contacted several law enforcement and public health agencies only to be ignored. On February 28th, Morgan spoke with an official at the LaPorte County Health Department at 9:38am where he was later referred to officials downstate. At approximately 9:50am, Morgan called and spoke with a representative from the Governor’s office where he was referred to a representative with the Indiana State Department of Health. Morgan also called and spoke with an agent with the FBI, considering the Federal laws that were being violated. All of his calls led to nothing.
MAYOR APPEARS TO UNMASK WHISTLEBLOWER
Approximately a week later, on March 7th, Morgan reached out to the Mayor of LaPorte, Tom Dermody. Morgan provided Dermody with pictures and videos of the violations. Dermody responded to Morgan’s messages a week later by writing “The police have recommended I don’t respond to anything related to the hospital because it is a potential crime.” By the time Mayor Dermody responded, RNM had already been in contact with hospital representatives. While RNM never identified Morgan in any communication or story, it turns out, Demody’s wife, Jackie Dermody, is a member of the Hospital Board. According to the Northwest Health website, Jackie joined the board in February of this year.
RNM is publishing a sample of the total messages sent to Mayor Dermody. However, out of an abundance of caution to protect potential private health information, we will no publish the entire conversation. Mayor Dermody only sent one response, which is published below.
MULTIPLE FALSE STATEMENTS IN THE LAWSUIT
The lawsuit filed by Northwest Health also claims Morgan uploaded videos of the violations to Youtube in an illegal publication of private material. When, in fact, Morgan only put video in a private location where he could share the video with proper authorities to view, only with permission from his account. The video and pictures of the files were never made public and could never be publicly viewed.
The lawsuit also makes several false claims about RNM’s communication with the hospital system.
The old hospital was vacated after Northwest Health constructed a new hospital that opened in 2020. Demolition of the old facility located at 1007 Lincolnway was to begin over the summer of 2022 and was supposed to be completed this spring. However, issues between the hospital system and the demolition company delayed the project. In fact, the hospital system took back control of the building from the demolition company earlier this month, according to sources.
When questioned about the files and obvious HIPAA violations, a spokesperson for Northwest Health requested RNM destroy the evidence we had obtained.
“To help protect the private personal information of individuals within the documents or photos you may have, we respectfully request you to return any documents you obtained to Rhonda Willis, privacy officer for Northwest Health – La Porte, delete any digital photos and their copies containing private personal information, and sign and return the attached Attestation of Destruction.” Northwest Health Spokesperson, Kelly Credit, wrote in an email with a PDF Attestation of Destruction attached (please see below).
“We take our privacy obligations very seriously and are committed to protecting the privacy of personal information that we collect and/or maintain. We regret this incident and are investigating.” Credit also wrote. “The company engaged to demolish the building also had responsibility for securing the premises. We are working with law enforcement to investigate the matter, including any vandalism that may have occurred. Patients whose personal information may have been affected in this incident will be notified directly by US mail as soon as possible.”
REAL News Michiana responded to Credit by questioning the hospital system’s motives in requesting we destroy evidence provided to us by a source for this story.
“You’re asking a journalist to destroy evidence and sign paperwork telling you I did it?” RNM responded in an email on March 7th. As of March 15th, Credit had not sent a response.
Credit would not tell RNM why the files were still on site, who was responsible for their removal or disposal or if the files were to be destroyed or transferred to the new facility.
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